Relief as MPs approve rules to guide marginalised areas kitty
Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka
Members of Parliament have approved finance regulations to unlock Sh6.8 billion under the Equalisation Fund in the financial year 2021/22.
Approval of the Public Finance Management (Equalisation Fund Administration) Regulations, 2021 will also help untie Sh1.2 billion pending bills and completion of about 240 stalled projects in some 14 counties.
The Council of Governors moved to court to challenge the legality of the fund and lack of regulations to manage the resources.
Despite Parliament allocating a whopping Sh13.6 billion for at least five financial years, the monies are yet to be disbursed because of lack of regulatory framework.
“Due to the court case, various facilities spread across various constituencies remain idle because the contractors have refused to hand them over to the government over non-payment,” North Horr MP Chachu Ganya said.
He said there are contractors who invested so much in the stalled projects and have not been paid to date.
MPs recommended that the Equalisation Fund be under the supervision of the Members of Parliament just like the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).
“As much as Kenyans appreciate devolution, there are a lot of complaints at the county and constituency level. The only Fund that is actually doing tangible work is NG-CDF,” Laisamis MP Marselino Arbelle said.
The Equalisation Fund is established under Article 204(1) of the Constitution which requires that 0.5 per cent of all revenue collected by the National government each year, calculated based on the most recent audited accounts, as approved by the National Assembly, is paid to the Fund.
This fund was to last for 20 years to try and uplift areas that had lagged behind in development across the country.
Tharaka MP George Gitonga warned against allowing counties to manage the kitty. “We want this Equalisation Fund to be managed like NG-CDF so that people at the grassroots can benefit to the maximum,” he said.
While moving the Motion for Approval of Public Finance Management (Equalisation Fund Administration) regulations 2021, Tiaty MP William Kamket said the fund has faced many legal challenges since its inception.
In the 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial years, Kamket who is the chair person of the Committee on Delegated Legislation said there was no allocation to the Equalisation Fund because the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) had not yet released the first policy.
After release of first policy, Kamket said, the commission allocated Sh12.4 billion to finance projects in 14 counties that were identified as marginalised.
“As soon as the first disbursements were made, petitions were filed in court and the first regulations were declared null and void,” Kamket told the House yesterday. “The National Treasury was directed by the court to go and come up with new regulations. This is where we are now,” he added.
Mbeere North MP Charles Njagagua, who is the vice chair of the committee, said the fund will benefit 34 counties adding that members of the public were involved in the development of the regulations.
Garissa Township MP Aden Duale however faulted CRA for increasing the number of marginalised areas from 14 counties to 34.
“It is against the Constitution to increase the beneficiaries of the fund. We agree that there are certain pockets even within Nairobi that are marginalised. However, you cannot compare a person living in Nairobi to a person living in Kitui when it comes to water shortage,” he said.
While the fund remains critical in the provision of basic services in marginalised areas, he said, its utilisation has not been very effective because the National Treasury dragged its feet.
Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta noted as far as implementation of development projects are concerned, the fund should be managed the way NG-CDF is managed. He termed additional of 20 counties in the list of marginalised areas as insensitive. “I believe the Constitution set out 14 counties. The additional counties, I would say, are unconstitutional,” he held.
Mwingi Central MP Gideon Mulyungi termed as biased the criteria used in identifying areas to benefit from the Fund. “The decision makers are also biased. Who said marginalised areas are where pastoralists come from? Mulyungi posed.
Isiolo Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa said the fact that the fund has taken more than 13 years to be implemented, is in itself, marginalisation.
“The fact that the marginalised areas were increased from 14 to 34 is not important at the moment.
I just want to take whatever small that we are given and make a difference in the lives of our people,” Jaldesa said adding: We need this fund to build more roads, hospitals to make sure that our people access water,” she added.